“I truly believe that the good in this country outweighs the bad, and that we continue to make progress.”
Throughout February, employees across North America are sharing their reflections on the history of Black and African Americans. We’re pleased to bring their stories to life here. (This is the third in a series.)
Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer – Medical Segment, Chicago, Illinois
Black History Month is a time to celebrate and try to understand our history, from slavery through the Civil Rights movement to today, and to recognize the countless contributions of our ancestors. For me, it’s a time to reflect on my own experiences as a Black American, as well.
I grew up in small town in southwest Georgia that was literally divided by a railroad track. Black families lived on one side of the track, White families lived on the other. Our schools were segregated until I was in the fourth grade. We went to school together in junior high and high school, and we all got along, but Black and White kids didn’t socialize with one another outside of school.
From the time I was very young, my parents helped me to understand that education is what would move us forward to a brighter future. For as long as I can remember, my goal was to get educated. And I did. I then served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, before joining corporate America.
As a Black man, I’ve had experiences that easily could have become difficult or dangerous, so I relate very personally to the too-frequent news stories about the situations that do end in violence. We still have so many issues of inequity to grapple with. And yet I truly believe that the good in this country outweighs the bad, and that we continue to make progress.
I am a great admirer of the late Colin Powell, who achieved the highest military position in this country, overcoming considerable challenges on his journey to becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said that if someone had a problem with the color of his skin, that’s their problem, not his. I found that very empowering. And I respected his leadership style; he always wanted what was best for his people. I’ve tried to emulate that in my own leadership roles.
Though I’ve been at Cardinal Health only a short time, I appreciate the genuine focus on diversity, equity and inclusion here. There is great intentionality around creating equity, having difficult conversations, and acknowledging the contributions of all. Significantly, Cardinal Health leaders believe in the power of diversity, knowing that when we open the doors to all people, regardless of and because of their differences, we energize and empower everyone.
Executive Assistant, Administration, Global Workplace Services, Dublin, Ohio
Every year, I start celebrating Black History Month early, by participating in the MLK Day March in Columbus. I am raising four of my grandchildren, ages 6 – 17, and I bring all of them to march with me.
In February, I love it when the kids share with me what they’ve learned at school about Black history. In our family, we consider Black history every day, because there’s too much to fit into just 28 days. And new history is being made every day. It’s important to me to help my grandkids understand past generations, so that they can better understand themselves, and so that they’re inspired to contribute and give back, too. I want each of them to know that they can make a difference to their communities. It’s one of the reasons that we volunteer together. We do what we can to help others, and we talk about why that matters.
I joined Cardinal Health eight years ago in a temporary position. I didn’t know much about the company at the time, but I instantly felt at home here. I discovered right away that people talk to each other, no matter what your position in the company. There’s a great emphasis on living and working by our company values – integrity, inclusion, mission driven, innovation and accountability.
Especially in recent years, I’ve been saddened and frightened by the violence and disparities in the world. There are so many social issues that we need to address. But when I come to work, I feel safe. When I leave my house every morning, it is to come to my work family, and I feel like I belong here.
I am continually inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. His words are so important today; we still have so much progress to make. For myself, for my grown children and for my grandchildren, I keep his words alive. We all share Dr. King’s dream of a future where everyone is truly equal.
Global Security Officer, Dublin, Ohio
I am a retired firefighter and an ordained minister, and I have been a security officer at Cardinal Health for more than 20 years.
During Black History Month particularly, I celebrate my parents. My late father was a postal worker; my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and both were determined that my sister and I would get a good education. They managed to save enough money to build a house in a Central Ohio community with excellent schools. We moved there when I was in second grade; we were the only Black family in the neighborhood for many years; my sister and I were the only Black kids in the school.
At school, I got pummeled every day; racial epithets were thrown at me frequently. Every day, I told my mom that I hated school. But she wouldn’t let me give up. She and my father talked with teachers regularly, and made me stick it out. It was rough, but in retrospect, I’m grateful.
In February, I also celebrate Black history makers. When our children were young, my wife, Beverly, and I made it a point of teaching them about those who had paved the way for us. I shared with them the words of the writer James Baldwin, who said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Those words have inspired me throughout my life.
More recently, my wife and I launched an online magazine called “Three-Fifths,” with the goal of initiating thoughtful conversations about societal justice, racial equity and spiritual insight; our hope is that the dialog we inspire might help to dismantle systemic racism in our country.
In my 22 years at Cardinal Health, I have seen the company increase its emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, there was a racial reckoning in our country, and Cardinal Health faced it head-on. Leaders focused on ensuring that employees of color had a safe place to talk and express their grief and anxiety. Cardinal Health has been out in front on these issues for a long time. This Black History Month, I’m celebrating that, as well.
Manager, Customer Success, Dublin, Ohio
Every February, I like to focus on learning more about something of significance to Black America. This year I’m learning about historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
HCBUs are schools accredited and established before 1964 (before the Civil Rights Act), whose mission is to educate Black Americans. Earlier this month I visited Allen University, an HBCU in Columbia, South Carolina, founded in 1870, where most of the students are the first in their families to attend college. There are only 106 HBCUs in the country, yet they produce almost 20% of Black graduates in the U.S. and about 25% of Black graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). HBCUs cost about 30% less than other colleges and universities on average, and provide a nurturing environment for low-income, first-generation students who are most at risk of not graduating.
My grandmother, who was not able to complete a college education, is my heroine. As a young mother of four, she separated from her husband and supported herself and her children by working two jobs as a maid and caretaker in White households. She embodied strength, courage and humility. She made sure her children knew that there was nothing more important than a good education. Inspired by her, my mom became a lawyer, and my uncle and aunts all earned advanced degrees.
I lived with my grandmother while I was in high school; she was like a mother to me in many ways, and my biggest cheerleader. I’m sorry to say she passed away in 2020, and I still miss her every day.
In the 10 years I’ve worked at Cardinal Health, I have seen leadership’s emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion strengthen and grow. That has emboldened people; for me, it has meant that I feel seen and respected for my past experiences and my perspectives. I am comfortable here, being who I am.
I very much admire the activist, academic and author Angela Davis, a strong, educated Black woman. She has said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the thing I cannot accept.” It’s so important to be the change you want to see in the world; Davis’ words remind me that we must NOT accept things that are wrong and that hold people back.
Anntonette (Toni) Houston
Senior Specialist, Customer Engagement Team, East -Northeast region, Little Rock, Arkansas
Throughout Black History Month and throughout the year, my husband and I have always talked with our now-grown children about their rich history, and about the pioneers who came before.
In particular, our kids have always heard a lot about my maternal grandmother, who is my heroine. She was passionate about civil rights, and in August 1963, she joined Martin Luther King Jr. in his historic March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. She was one of more than a quarter million people who came to support Dr. King and to protest of the nation’s inequities.
My grandmother never let any of us forget the significance of that march, and the profound impact that Dr. King made. She was my constant encouragement, and made sure that I believed I could do anything I set my mind to do. There’s a quote from the author Alice Walker that I just love, because it sounds so much like something my grandmother would say: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
I grew up in a diverse community in New York where there were lots of people of color and immigrants from many different countries. Skin color wasn’t something I thought about every day, but whenever I went into a store, employees followed me to make sure I didn’t steal anything. My grandmother’s voice was constantly in my ear, telling me, “you have the right to be here.”
That is very much how I feel at Cardinal Health. The belief that I am where I’m supposed to be was underscored after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, when several of our Black leaders hosted a call for any employee who wanted to participate. Their purpose was to make sure we knew that the leadership at Cardinal Health knew that what had happened was terrible. They wanted to be sure that we were okay; they wanted us to understand that Cardinal Health is a safe space. They told us, “We see you, we hear you, and we’re going to do what we can to make it better.” It was absolutely an amazing experience.